I was so Blessed to be in Church this past Sunday on Father's Day thinking of and Missing my Dad & Grandfather. I work with Refugees and Immigrants and they are the most caring people I've ever met. I had a hard life but, I was never torn away from family or my home, always knew I belonged and was welcomed everywhere I went, so to come to a land that was built on the backs of Immigrants and Refugees, this Nation that for over Two Hundred Years has said Give us Your Tired and Your Poor, is Now telling them to Get Out, We Don't want you!!!!!! What a Nation of Hypocrites Our Leaders have Turned Us Into!!!!!! I was Blessed to hear this and I am using it to FIGHT THIS WAR ON FEAR!!!!!! That's what Our Leaders want they want us to be Afraid of those we don't know, I don't know Our Leaders and I FEAR them more than a stranger from Another Land!!!!!!
Homily on Immigration
11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
June 17, 2018
Today is Fathers’ Day. Were you blessed to have a Father or maybe to still have a Father? It’s a great day to celebrate the gift of fathers in our lives. But what if when you were three or four years old, soldiers came and tore you out of your father’s arms and dragged him away. Then they took your mother too. You didn’t know if you would ever see them again. You were taken to a detention center and put in a cage with other children, given an air mattress to sleep with on the floor, and a mylar blanket to cover yourself. No one explains what is happening and no one seems to care about you or the others. I mention this because today we not only celebrate Fathers’ Day but also we prepare to celebrate World Refugee Day this coming Wednesday June 20.
You might think to yourself – wait a minute why is he talking about immigration. I don’t come to church to hear about politics. Well, if you don’t want to hear about politics then don’t ever read the bible, because the bible is a political document. Don’t ever look at the crucifix because Jesus died as political prisoner. In other words the gospel is directed at the world, at the city, at the polis, which is the Greek word for city and from which we get the word political. By its very nature the Gospel requires application to change the world we live in, to change it for the better, especially to change it for those who are suffering.
This past week we have seen in the headlines the horrific realization of the scene I just described; 2,000 children being taken from their parents and placed in detention, 2,000 innocent children. And then representatives of the government had the nerve to use the Bible as a rationale for their actions.
In response to this the American Bishops at their semi-annual meeting last week issued an unprecedented statement both criticizing the government for using the Bible to rationalize its actions, and also condemning the separation of children from their parents. As Jesuit Father James Martin has pointed out:
It is not biblical to treat migrants and immigrants like animals. It is not biblical to ignore the needs of the stranger. It is not biblical to enforce unjust laws. It is not biblical to take children away from their parents. In fact the only place in the Bible where children are taken from their parents are in the Hebrew Scriptures by the Pharaoh who slew the infant sons of the Israelites with the exception of Moses who was spirited away by his sister, and Herod in the Christian Scriptures who Slaughtered the Innocents in an attempt to kill the newborn King of the Jews.
What the Bible in fact does say about immigration is quiet clear:
Going back to the Book of Exodus God tells Moses and through him all the Israelites: “You shall not oppress the resident alien among you. You know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
That’s two messages from God. Care for the refugee. In the ancient Near East people without attachment to a clan were most often vulnerable and poor, just like migrants and refugees today. So they needed, and continue to need, special help. Secondly, God is reminding the Israelites that they were aliens once, when they were in exile in Egypt.
The book of Deuteronomy says: “God loves the stranger,”
And Psalm 146 says: “The Lord protects the stranger.”
The Hebrew Scriptures are clear about two things: God’s command to care for the alien and God’s special love for them.
In the New Testament Jesus is even clearer about this. The criteria that Jesus outlines for entrance into heaven includes the citation: “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me.” “Lord, when did we see you a stranger and not welcome you?” The unjust will ask, and the king will answer them: “Every time you didn’t welcome a stranger, you didn’t welcome me.”
If you think this only applies to actions of an individual, perhaps the title given this Gospel passage in Matthew makes it clear. It is called “The Judgement of the Nations.” Perhaps the strongest message from Jesus is not what he said but what he did. After his birth Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled into Egypt. Mary and Joseph and Jesus were fleeing persecution and the threat of death at the hand of Herod. So we can see that among the millions of refugees the world has seen, and the unprecedented millions of refugees in the world today, are Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Now for us here perhaps the need for immigration reform is not a burning issue. We don’t live in Texas where people are erecting a wall to keep out their neighbors. The most we have to deal with are those pesky Canadians, invading our outlet malls, changing clothes in their cars and littering our parking lots with their plastic bags. But the question of immigration is not just a local problem but a world crisis.
A few years ago when Pope Francis visited the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, a major point of arrival for immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, who are seeking to reach Europe, he tossed a wreath of white and yellow chrysanthemums into the sea, commemorating the estimated 20,000 who have died making the passage. He implored host countries to ensure that the arrival of migrants does not cause “new and even heavier forms of slavery and humiliation.” “Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters?” the pope asked, saying that too often, the answer is “No one!”
Pope Francis was criticized for his remarks at that time and some said the Vatican doesn’t open its doors to house immigrants. In response Pope Francis requested that empty convents and monasteries be used to house refugees and immigrants, instead of being turned into boutique hotels for tourists.
And so, sisters and brothers, I would suggest that all of us, each and every one of us is an immigrant. You might protest and say: “My family has been here for three, four, five or more generations!” I would still say you are an immigrant. To prove this I have three questions for you.
First. Did your ancestors come over on the Mayflower, or by extension fight in the Revolutionary War? If the answer is “No,” then you are an immigrant. We are all guests here. Second. Is your first language (or your only language) English? If so, then you are an immigrant. If your first language is Cree, or Lakota or Navajo then you are a native. Third. Have you ever paid attention to the words of the second stanza of song America the Beautiful which we sing with such vigor and devotion? “O beautiful for pilgrim feet, whose stern impassioned stress, a thoroughfare for freedom beat across a wilderness.” Guess what, folks! It wasn’t a wilderness.
There were people there, and homes there, and civilizations there, and we came in with our euro-centric sense of “manifest destiny” and swept it all away, thinking: “This is mine. I have every right to this and I don’t need to share it with anyone. Of course we don’t want to have borders that are insecure or to ignore the threat of terrorism here at home. But that is the extreme and the exception. Most often it is the innocent who suffer, because our legislation is so rigid. This week you can do something about this, something that will only take you a couple of minutes, something that you can do to really celebrate Fathers’ Day. In the bulletin there is an insert with instructions on how to contact your government representatives and encourage them to address the fact that the number of legal immigrants has been drastically lowered this year and that even the minimum number of legal entries that the law allows will not be reached.
In 2016 there were nearly 85,000 legal immigrants admitted into our country. This year the ceiling was lowered to 45,000, and at the current rate only about half that may be allowed to enter. These are people who are entering legally and have already been vetted. The insert in the bulletin even gives you a model message for requesting that this action be taken as soon possible. Please look over this insert carefully and on Wednesday take five minutes to make a difference for the lives of thousands of our sisters and brothers.
Today we celebrate Father’s Day and if we are or were blessed to have a father, we must work for all children to have fathers. In a few minutes we will pray together “Our Father.” We must be ready to recognize, when we say those words “Our Father” that this means that every man, woman and child, every man, woman and child, is our sister and our brother. We have a sign at all the doors of the church that says: “All are welcome.” That sign cannot just refer to the doors of this church. It must also refer to the doors or our hearts, and the doors of our country.